Dynamic, magical objects-amulets, talismans, charms, fetishes. Belief in the potency of certain objects has been intrinsic to humans since ancient times from the chthonic beliefs of animists in spirits that dwell in the natural world to New Age crystals and pendants to protect from cell phone electromagnetic fields.

In Sheila Paine’s extraordinary book Amulets A World of Secret powers, Charms and Magic she describes and illustrates an ancient global phenomenon of protection from negative forces, curses, enemies, sickness or accident.

“Intricately beautiful or starkly simple, amulets come in an astonishing variety of guises, from stones, shells and seeds, through animal tails, teeth and claws, to beads, mirrors, needles and bells.

Worn as necklaces, sewn to clothing, painted on buildings or hung in vehicles, they guard babies and brides, warriors, hunters and travellers; pockets and purses; livestock, crops and houses. Malign spirits and hobgoblins at crossroads have always been feared, but modern dangers-car crashes, new diseases, even mobile phones-have ensured an abiding faith in the magical protection that amulets afford us.”

In the summer of 2010, having completed my MA, I went to visit a friend in Turkey and whilst I was there I found to my surprise an amulet for sale in a local market. It conformed to the pattern I’d read about in Sheila Paine’s book, triangular shaped and covered with buttons, cowrie shells and shiny metal pieces hung with nine threads with various shapes of coloured beads and cowries. I was taken aback to think that such things still had potency in the 21st century and wanted to know more about this world I knew so little of, and so began my research into this phenomenon that has become a major feature of my artwork.

I think there is something deep within the human psyche, something intrinsic that connects us to the natural world so securely that we will always resort to charms, amulets and rituals and especially at times of stress and duress. It is a place of myth and legend that exists alongside us, it is from here that I take my inspiration.

Fetishes for Uncertain Times


Photographed by Matylda Augustynek

Inspired by Textiles – Fetishes for Uncertain Times

In my recent textile works I respond to the current climate of uncertainty across the globe by creating objects of agency that use ancient and traditional formulas for protection against the perceived evils in the world.

Founded on well-researched knowledge of amulets, talismans and fetish objects I have created asymmetrical textile sculptures, covered them with amulet devices; embroidered knots and wavy lines, shiny objects, buttons, nazaars, bells and coloured beads. The resulting forms are highly tactile, richly ornate and intriguingly ambiguous, they invite curiosity.

In line with my environmental concerns I make use of textile remnants and scraps of discarded clothing to make my sculptures. Each piece is unique, sewn together as they are from randomly shaped pieces of fabric. The resulting form is then filled with wadding and only then do I discover the final shape of the sculpture. My use of scraps and remnants to create ‘new’ textiles makes reference to the more recent use of such materials by African American women of Gees Bend for their remarkable quilts, 19th century patchwork quilts of Europe and the U.S.A., South American appliqué work and Japanese 19th century patchwork known as Boro.

Once the shape is arrived at I begin the process of hand stitching the amulet devices and embroidered areas.

Initially seeking to interpret stone-age female figurines using wadding filled cloth shapes developed from my research into ancient female forms such as the Venus of Wallendorf and the goddess of Catal Huyuk, the resulting sculptures are a celebration of asymmetry, ambiguity and intrigue as well as re-use.

I exhibit  my unique sculptures on metal stands creating a strong contrast between the raw metal and the softness of the textiles. Some are grouped together as floor based sculptures and smaller ones may be grouped together on plinths.

The production of cloth has been a constant in women’s story globally as has the use of clothing for protection often with the enhancement of amulet devices added to protect the wearer and avert the ‘evil eye’. In using these objects I add agency to my sculptural work, following an ancient tradition of protection in an uncertain world.

I see myself following the tradition, not only of women from our ancient past but also the women artists that came before me who also worked with cloth, Louise Bourgeois, Dorothea Tanning, Gita Bratescu.

Both my sculptures and paintings provide me the opportunity to investigate the role of women in our human story through the production of cloth and clothing and to address the dichotomy of the female artist working in a domestic environment using the domestic as subject matter.

In celebration of 20 years of Cross Street Arts studio group and as part of Manifest Arts Festival 2019 artist members have created a stunningly vibrant and diverse exhibition in their gallery on Cross Street, Standish WN6 0HQ. Open by appointment until the end of July-phone us -01257 424804. At our opening event on 13th July we celebrated with a procession, presentation,performance, fine art and music. As a founder member of the studio group it has been a great pleasure to be part of the development and establishment of Cross Street Arts for the artists of our region, long may we run!!

The Children of Mercury – a medal for Cross Street Arts

ceramic and mixed media

Anna FC Smith

Anna and Claire processing around Standish for 20 Years celebratory exhibition on 13th July 2019

Al & Al

Opening presentation in celebration of 20 Years of Cross street Arts

(Matriarchal) Reliquary 2019-2039

Claire Doyle (right) performance

Wearing my Shaman costume – performing as the Matriarchal Reliquary in Claire Doyle’s performance work

Garden Path 1999 (left)

pastel on paper

Garden Path 2019 (right)

oil on lime wood board

Both paintings were made in early spring 20 years apart and show the development of my garden and my artist practice.

Garden Path 2019

oil on lime wood panel

20 x 25 x 3cm

Thrilled to be showing one of my acrylic on canvas paintings at Chapel Gallery, Ormskirk L39 4QR. Exhibition opens tonight, 19th July and runs until 16th September.

Hanging forms 2019

acrylic on canvas

100 x 70 x 4cm



Very pleased to be included in Saul Hay’s latest exhibition ‘Spotlight’, part of Manifest Arts Festival 2019. The exhibition runs until 3rd August, check out Saul Hay Fine Art website for opening hours.

Fragments (after Gita Bratescu) and Remnants (after Gita Bratescu)

oil on board

30 x 40 cm

£200 each